Those who watch and play rugby understand the intensity and demands of the sport. Players require strength and power, combined with speed and agility, to bring their opposing number to the ground and drive their team forwards. Along with matches, the training volume for these athletes is huge; including fitness, strength and conditioning, and tactics. But at the end of the day, the main thing that wins each match is scoring more tries than the opponents. To enable this, a recent study has illustrated an optimal training strategy to get to the try-line quicker.

A team of rugby players completed 3 weeks (2 sessions per week) of repeated sprint training. Each session consisted of four sets of 5 x 5 s Wattbike sprints with 25 s and 5 min of active recovery between sprints and sets, respectively. One half of the team completed these in hypoxic conditions (inspired oxygen = 14.5%; ~3000 m above sea level), and the other in normoxic conditions (sea level). Before and after the training period, repeated sprint ability was assessed via 8 x 20 m sprints, going every 20 s, with the time taken used as the primary outcome measure.

The results of this study were clear. Those who completed the repeated sprint training in hypoxic conditions performed significantly better at the repeated sprint ability assessment than those who trained in normoxia. Specifically, it took the hypoxic group less time to sprint for 20 m repetitions. This finding is particularly interesting as average watts across the training period was higher in normoxia compared to hypoxia, whereas, the rugby players in the hypoxic group perceived the training harder than those in the normoxic group. Therefore, although the training was more of a challenge due to the environmental conditions, overall, the training intensity in hypoxia was lower but still resulted in greater benefits!

In terms of implementing this in the real-world, the application of this training will not hinder the current training carried out by rugby players. Two sessions per week, lasting around 30 mins each does not take out a huge amount of time, and from the findings of this research, it should replace current speed drills!

So if you’re looking to reach that try-line quicker, visit us in London to try out some sprints in our hypoxic chamber! Alternatively, if you want to carry out some sprints in your natural training environment, we will be able to provide the equipment and setup to enable this.

Study details
Hamlin et al. (2016). Frontiers in Physiology, doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00024.